Over 60 years ago, my father fled Myanmar’s Shan State on foot to escape poverty, injustice and oppression. His life’s pilgrimage has taught me the value of perseverance in the pursuit of a better life. Growing up in Chiang Rai, my life has been touched by inequality in every possible dimension. But instead of giving in, I became determined to uproot socio-economic disparities.
I left my hometown to pursue B.A. in Political Science (International Relations) at Chulalongkorn University then went to pursue a Master of Public Policy at the University of Oxford because I wanted to better understand why public policies often fail to serve the public interest.
In 2018, I returned to Thailand and joined Pheu Thai Party as a believer in democracy. Although the 2019 general elections did not go the way we wanted, I was still committed to the party and its mission. However, last year, several party members left to form the Thai Sang Thai Party. The split forced me to make a major decision whether to stay with Pheu Thai or leave.
I took a fair amount of time to reflect on my political journey. It was certainly not an easy decision. Eventually, I asked myself these three questions.
1) What does my ideal political party look like?
A political party should aim to become a political institution. Transitory gatherings of people only serve temporary purposes. And a young motivated soul like mine does not want to settle down at an unsettled place. I knew Thai Sang Thai Party was destined to last the minute I saw its physical blueprint and mental layout.
The Party declared that the older generation would serve as foundations and scaffolding for the new generation to bring in a diversity of ideas to build the party together. The Party also promised that everyone would be partners in this creation, without the hierarchical bureaucracy that prevents many organizations from reaching their full potential. The Party stated its philosophy that, “We want to hand over the best version of Thailand to our children and grandchildren.”
Building a political institution requires great leadership. At Pheu Thai Party, I had an opportunity to accompany Khunying Sudarat Keyuraphan on her campaigns throughout Thailand. She was tenacious, relentless and dedicated. Her sacrifice is a testament to excellent leadership. Despite the difficulties we encountered, her work ethic remained unwavering. Under Dr. Bhokin Bhalakula’s mentorship, my ability has developed in all areas. I learned at an amazing rate to try to catch up with the 40-year knowledge and experience gap.
2) What are my goals?
I spent a decade mastering my skills in public policy analysis through my studies and profession. I am fascinated by the processes through which policies are formulated, implemented, and evaluated. My role as Director of Policy Center of the Thai Sang Thai Party serves my goal. I am allowed to think, speak and listen with the team’s full support.
Another goal of mine is to contribute new perspectives with a liberty to discuss, debate and refine. Half of the team are young, dynamic and collaborative. This is rare in older political parties. At the same time, we receive mentoring from more experienced members. Together, we make a great team. This represents the reality of society, in which Baby Boomers, Gen Y and Gen Z have all influence social trends. Since this inter-generational culture starts at the Party level, there is a higher possibility of developing policies that benefit everyone.
3) What is my vision for Thailand?
As someone who has seen best practices from other countries, I truly believe that Thailand has a great potential at the global stage. It is also easier to capitalize what we are already good at. Thailand possess three key strengths; food, health and tourism. These are the directions set out by the Thai Sang Thai party for Thailand.
I think Thailand needs a leader who is adaptable and accepted by an international community. They must come from a democratically elected means where legitimacy is maintained. Thai Sang Thai Party consistently advocates for the constitution by the people to eliminate unjustified clauses such as the appointed 250 Senators, the source of independent bodies, etc.
The Party also helped campaign for a collection of over 700,000 names to be submitted to the Central Criminal Court for Corruption and Misconduct Cases in order to remove Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha due his COVID-19 mismanagement. This demonstrates the vision of Thai Sang Thai Party.
I left Pheu Thai Party for a chance to become a partner in this inter-generational culture of a political institution, to pursue my life goals and to help rebuild Thailand anew.
As I am embarking on my new journey, I would like to advocate for equitable education. An opportunity at education through scholarships changed my life. The Equitable Education Fund reported that there are 1.3 million students under extreme poverty. During COVID-19, 271,889 students in “red provinces have no access to online learning and 65,000 students will drop out of the education system by this academic year. It is time to seriously advocate for equal access to education.
Foreign affairs is also another passion of mine. I would like to see Thailand thrive gracefully at a global stage. We need to strategically navigate and balance our position amidst the trade war and the post-pandemic era. Crafting these policies require a brave vision and capability for execution.
Finally, despite the new electoral laws, I believe that Thai Sang Thai Party retains its viability. Although the Party is new, our people are not completely new. Our leader was the first Prime Minister candidate from the largest political party and our members are accomplished and motivated young individuals. Our presence is strong in Bangkok, the Northeast, the North and even the South. While we are building the Party to become a political institution, we are also making sure that we are prepared for any systems and circumstances.
Tidarat Yingcharoen (Tida) is Director of Policy Center of Thai Sang Thai Party.